Yuja Wang at Queen Elizabeth Hall

Domenico Scarlatti
Sonata in G, Kk427; Sonata in B minor, Kk87; Sonata in E, Kk380; Sonata in G, Kk455
Variations on a Theme by Paganini, Op.35
Piano Sonata No.2 in B flat minor, Op.35
Three Movements from Petrushka

Yuja Wang (piano)

Reviewed by: Andrew Maisel

Reviewed: 10 May, 2009
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Queen Elizabeth Hall

Yuja Wang. Photograph: yujawang.dreamhosters.comYuja Wang’s debut London recital has heralded the arrival of a significant new talent. Better known abroad for her ability to step in at the last moment for artists such as Martha Argerich and Radu Lupu, Wang’s considerable abilities are now recognised in her own right: she has a contract with Deutsche Grammophon and numerous high-profile appearances.

The Scarlatti sonatas were a delight. After a slightly over cautious opener, the others were fresh and lively performances of refinement and style, crisply articulated catching each sonata’s mood.

Brahms’s Paganini Variations brought out the virtuoso in Wang and displayed a technique which seems equipped for just about anything; her playing was quite dazzling, if sometimes lacking poetry and dynamic shading; she has yet to emulate such as Bolet and Michelangeli.

Chopin was the surprise package. Fireworks were expected but not a reading of such urgency, power and intensity. Wang’s view of the piece was restlessly volatile and there was no respite in momentum in the scherzo, which bristled with fervent Romanticism, all technical hurdles brushed aside. Perhaps the third-movement ‘Funeral March’ could have had more tenderness but the climaxes were beautifully realised. The mysterious finalegrowled, providing a suitably ghostly coda.

An explosive Petrushka (three movements as transcribed by the composer) in which Wang left no doubt that music once the preserve of Pollini was perfectly within her grasp; its chords, leaps and pedalling make huge demands on a pianist, but Wang took all this in her stride. Her performance was characterised by super-fast runs and cleanly-articulated tonal colouring. There really was little need for an encore but a delicate Chopin Waltz and the barnstorming transcription (Volodos’s) of Mozart’s ‘Rondo alla Turca’ provided the icing on the cake.

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